Special Issue of Theatre Research in Canada/ Recherches théâtrales au Canada
Guest Editor: Kirsty Johnston, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia
In 2012 the Canada Council for the Arts released an access and equality strategy targeting Deaf and disability arts.1 While on one level this signaled a new direction for funding and support to “expand the arts” according to the council’s equity strategy, it also built from a recognition “that Deaf and disability arts are important evolving sectors and art practices in the Canadian arts ecology, to be supported, promoted and advanced.”2 This theme issue builds from a similar recognition: that disability theatre and performance are an evolving and lively field of arts innovation and practice in Canada that deserve wider recognition and criticism. Although Canadian disability theatre can point to historical antecedents with some shared principles, it is generally understood to have emerged in the 1990s as a host of disability artists and activists sought to take the stage in order to recast and reimagine what disability means and entails in performance. Rejecting hackneyed stereotypes and performance traditions that encourage “cripping up,” artists developed new theatre companies, plays, dramaturgical processes, and performance practices.3 They raised fundamental questions about social inclusion and justice, identity, arts access, and the body. Since the foundations of the field were laid, disability theatre in Canada has expanded into new centres, connected with international artistic alliances and collaborations, and in some cases, struggled to maintain momentum.
In view of this sustained artistic activity and recent national initiatives to support, promote, and advance its precepts and practices, this issue invites examinations of the many ways that the terms “disability,” “theatre,” and “performance,” can and have provoked one another. Where, why, and how have disability theatre and disability performance developed in Canada (or not)? With what means and challenges? What artists, companies, policies and practices have supported or hindered expansion? What fundamental questions do disability theatre and disability performance raise for performance criticism more broadly? How are performance theories concerning embodiment, space, affect or intermediality recast through a disability studies lens? How have performance scholars and reviewers imagined disabled people among their target audiences (or not)? What debates have animated scholars and practitioners? What, in short, is the cutting edge of the field and why?
We invite submissions on this theme by August 1, 2015.
1. For general policy/ La documentation associée à la stratégie ::
2. For quote/ Tiré du sommaire de la Stratégie :: www.canadacouncil.ca.
3. Carrie Sandahl, who in a footnote credits disabled UK playwright Kaite O’Reilly with coining the term explains, “In the disability arts and activist communities, casting non- disabled actors as disabled characters is called pejoratively ‘cripping up,’ referencing the outdated practice of white actors ‘blacking up’ to play African American characters.” Sandahl, C. “Why Disability Identity Matters: From Dramaturgy to Casting in John Belluso’s Pyretown” in Text and Performance Quarterly 28.1 (2008): 236.
Dans une note de bas de page, Carrie Sandahl attribue l’origine de l’expression à Kaite O’Reilly, dramaturge britannique handicapée, et offre l’explication suivante : « Dans les cercles d’artistes et d’activistes ayant un handicap, quand nous voyons qu’un artiste sans handicap se fait attribuer le rôle d’un personnage handicapé, nous utilisons l’expression péjorative ‘cripping up’ (‘jouer l’estropié’), un renvoi au ‘blacking up’, cette pratique désuète qui voyait les acteurs noirs se noircir le visage pour interpréter un personnage afro- américain. » Sandahl, C., « Why Disability Identity Matters: From Dramaturgy to Casting in John Belluso’s Pyretown ». Text and Performance Quarterly 28.1 (2008) : 236 (traduction libre).